Panasonic Aiming To Work With Tesla On Autonomous Vehicle Technology

Panasonic wants to further tap into its strong working relationship with Tesla Motors, this time through autonomous vehicle systems.

Self-driving car technology is considered by many to be central in the auto industry’s future, and Panasonic’s relationship with Tesla could be an opportunity the company has been seeking.

“We are deeply interested in Tesla’s self-driving system,” CEO Kazuhiro Tsuga said in an interview with Automotive News on Thursday. “We are hoping to expand our collaboration by jointly developing devices for that, such as sensors.”

Tsuga said that Panasonic is developing “organic photoconductive film CMOS image sensors” that would enable high-speed sensing of moving objects without distortion. It’s being considered for application to Tesla’s autonomous vehicle system, he said.

Other products could include cockpit displays and navigation systems supporting the automated systems being developed.

Panasonic sees strong revenue potential in the near future. The company forecasts annual sales for the automated vehicle technology segment to be at 2 trillion yen ($17.43 billion) for the business year going through March 2019, up from 1.3 trillion yen ($11.3 billion) in the year that ended in March 2016.

The Japanese electronics giant sees the automotive sector – and its relationship with Tesla – as central to its growth strategy and well beyond profit limitations seen in the low-margin consumer electronics space. Panasonic has been known for years as a leading global manufacturer of consumer electronics including televisions and DVD/Blu-ray players, cameras, kitchen equipment, batteries, and more recently, automotive dashboard electronics.

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That business relationship has strengthened in the past year. Tesla acknowledged last year that Panasonic is its exclusive battery cell supplier for the Model 3 at the Gigafactory in Nevada, and for the Model S and Model X at the Fremont, Calif., plant. Panasonic will invest $1.6 billion in Tesla’s Nevada $5 billion factory.

Last month, Panasonic confirmed it will be partnering with Tesla at its upstate New York plant where photovoltaic cells and modules will be jointly produced for solar panels.

Earlier this month, Tesla and Panasonic announced that they had started battery cell production at the Gigafactory.


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